Mystery and Crime Fiction posted December 28, 2015 Chapters: -Prologue- 1... 


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A simple errand unveils a startling discovery...

A chapter in the book 2nd Time Around

Prologue

by teols2016


The author has placed a warning on this post for violence.
"Cruel with guilt, and daring with despair, the midnight murderer bursts the faithless bar; invades the sacred hour of silent rest and leaves, unseen, a dagger in your breast."
Samuel Johnson, 1709-1784

Prologue

1996:

... Her footsteps audible through the quiet neighborhood, Sarah Inez Griffin left her family's house and sprinted across to the Parkers' home. Arriving on their front porch, she noticed a strange green car in the driveway, parked right behind their all-too-familiar gray minivan. They must have company, she concluded, promising herself she'd be quick. Pushing some stray red strands out of her face, she rang the bell. She considered when she'd have time to get a haircut.

There was no answer. Sarah waited half a minute and tried again. Still, no one came to the door. She listened but heard nothing inside. Was anyone even home? This was weird.

She tried a third time and was about to give up when the door opened. Dr. Ben Kimble Parker peered out at her. He was trying to catch his breath and Sarah could smell sweat. The surprised and distracted look on his face indicated she was interrupting something. The dirty sweatshirt and jeans didn't suggest he was entertaining. What was going on?

"Hello," Dr. Parker said in a quiet voice, still breathing heavily.

"Hi," Sarah said, forcing a smile. "Sorry to interrupt but my mom needs to borrow a bag of flour."

Baking was a pastime for Mrs. Elaine Parker and everyone knew she always had extra supplies in stock.

"Oh, sure," Dr. Parker said, sounding relieved. "Wait here a minute. I'll go get some. Just ... wait here please."

Leaving the front door open, he turned and headed down a hallway towards the garage where Sarah knew the family stored their extra supplies. He looked at her over his shoulder every so often. It was as though he wanted to make sure she stayed put. He was soon out of sight.

He was acting odd, or at least odder than usual. He was a dentist by trade and always took too much of an interest in anything involving her mouth. Just a bit taller than her, he always had a good vantage point.

Then there was the fact he was attracted to her to an inappropriate level. He never passed up an opportunity to lewdly stare at her, often moving in too close when she was in his dentist's chair. The feelings weren't mutual. With his stubble, unruly dark hair, and few extra pounds, Sarah did not find him attractive. He was just very plain-looking and she'd never see him any other way. He did all the staring.

Not today though. He hadn't even looked at her chest yet, not that this wasn't a nice change of pace. She was wearing a t-shirt and running shorts, an attire which normally caught his eye when she was out jogging and he was on his way to work. Now, she might as well be wearing a suit of armor.

Wonder what I interrupted, she thought, unable to hear any other voices, is anyone else even here?

Straining to hear anything, she caught the tell-tale sounds of a television playing cartoons. So, the kids are here, she concluded. She figured it'd be okay to go say "hello." She used to baby-sit them all the time until she left for American University. Now a junior, she still sometimes watched them when she was home, like the previous Tuesday. But those occasions were very infrequent and Alan and Stacey were crushed by her absence. They adored her and It seemed none of their current sitters measured up.

This will be a nice surprise, Sarah thought, seeing no harm in it. She stepped inside and headed down another hallway, somewhat surprised the kids hadn't already come running while she was speaking with their father. Must be one heck of a cartoon, she figured, passing an open door and stepping around Alan's discarded baseball glove.

She noted the familiar photos on the wall. There were shots featuring the kids' first day at Arlington's Long Branch Elementary School. There was a picture of the family during an excursion to nearby Washington, D.C. Other photos featured birthday parties and similar gatherings. One had Sarah in it, though she couldn't recall the occasion.

Not paying attention, Sarah bumped into a small side table the Parkers kept in the hallway. She heard something hit the floor with a clatter.

What the, she wondered, looking down. She saw a kitchen knife lying at her feet. It looked like the ones her parents used to cut meat.

Why is this out here, she pondered. She picked it up and took it with her. It smelled a little weird, but she couldn't place the odor. The stench did seem vaguely familiar.

She walked into the nearby kitchen and set the knife down on the counter next to some grocery bags. Poking out of one of these was a bag of flour.

Why didn't he give me this one? Sarah wondered. She looked back towards the door, considering the possibility Dr. Parker may have remembered these groceries and returned from the garage.

Deciding not to dwell on the mystery of the flour bags, Sarah headed back out of the kitchen and further down the hallway towards the den, still hearing the television. She thought it was a cartoon but she wasn't familiar with it. As she got closer, she noticed an odd smell coming from the room. She realized it was the same smell as the knife and its source hit her.

She'd needed to have her appendix taken out when she was twelve. Waiting for the operating room to be prepped, she'd complained about the strong, chlorine-like smell. A nurse sympathized, explaining it was the industrial cleaner the hospital's maintenance staff used.

Did Dr. Parker move his office here? Sarah wondered, finding no other context for the sterile smell of disinfectant. Sure, Mrs. Parker kept a clean house, but she wasn't obsessed or anything.

"Hey, you guys," Sarah said, turning into the den. "What are you ..."

She froze. Her heart rate sped up and her hands trembled. Getting her voice back, she screamed at the top of her lungs.

Lying on the floor on several plastic tarps, their throats slit and their chests bloody, were the bodies of Mrs. Parker and the kids, Alan and Stacey. A container of industrial cleaner stood near the corpses, along with supplies like sponges and paper towels. Despite there being pale spots on the black tarps where someone had already cleaned up, there was blood all around, some of it trickling off onto the hardwood floor.

The green rug on which Sarah had so often played with the kids was rolled up and moved against one wall to make room for the tarps. The tall lamp in the corner had been knocked over, its shade askew. Stacey's stuffed cow and Alan's Captain America action figure lay on the couch along with the TV remote. The cartoon was still playing. It showed some kids climbing onto a bus with wings. A milk crate next to the couch was also on its side, the toys kept in it strewn across the floor.

Horrified, Sarah backed towards the door. understanding what she had interrupted, she had to get out. She needed help. Having surely heard her screams, Dr. Parker would be back any second. She had to get away. Somehow, she could not take her eyes off the bodies. She couldn't believe this.

She felt a presence behind her and realized Dr. Parker was already back. Whirling around, she saw him standing in the doorway, wielding a large kitchen knife like the one she'd picked up earlier. The light from the ceiling reflected off its blade and it looked sharp. In his other hand was the bag of flour she asked for.

She took a few steps back but stopped when she realized she was getting close to the bodies, already stepping in the blood on the tarps. It felt somewhat sticky as she moved again and the plastic crunched as she put her feet on it. Looking down, she saw the dark red prints she was making with her sneakers. She froze, too stunned to speak.

"You weren't supposed to see this," Dr. Parker said in a low voice. "You were not supposed to see this."

Though he was only about two inches taller than Sarah, he now seemed to tower over her as he stepped forward, wielding the knife. Menacing as he looked and sounded, his face a mixture of anger and determination, he didn't come at her. Sarah couldn't understand his hesitation and didn't stop to analyze it. She tried to figure out how to save herself, forgetting the blood on her shoes.

"How ... how could you?" she asked, hoping to buy time and come up with an escape plan. "How could you do this?! They're your family!"

Dr. Parker didn't reply. Instead, he took a few steps into the room, closing the gap between them, the knife grasped in his hand. Sarah saw her partial reflection in its blade and she felt as though the knife itself marked her for death.

She charged forward, hoping to slip around him and reach the door. Then she'd make it out. Once outside, she could scream and get the attention of anyone on the street who was home. Dr. Parker wasn't muscular at all while she ran every day to stay in shape, so she had the advantage. She was sure she could take this guy, murders or no murders.

But Dr. Parker swung one of his arms forward, hitting Sarah across the head with the bag of flour. With a dull thump and a tearing sound, the bag ripped upon impact. Sarah was coated in the white powder as she stumbled backwards, stunned by the blow to her skull. Her vision was hazy and the entire room was a blur as stars flashed before her eyes. It was as though she was temporarily blinded by the flash of a camera. Only here, the camera caused a dull pain in her head.

Some of the flour got into her eyes, further blinding her. Wiping them with her hands wasn't really helping as they too had flour on them. The stuff stung. Hearing Dr. Parker moving somewhere, Sarah stepped back again.

Her leg hit the couch. Trying to clear her vision and ignoring the pain in her head, she felt around behind her. She needed something to help her get the flour out of her eyes.

Her hand found Stacey's stuffed cow. Creeped out but having no other option, she yanked the cherished animal up and wiped her face with it.

Now able to see again, she saw Dr. Parker advancing towards her. Taking another shot, she charged forward and slipped past him this time, ducking under his outstretched arm. Escape being the only goal, she kept going and reached the hallway. Her breathing was short and rapid and her heart pounded in her ears. Her desperate thoughts were jumbled in her brain, but she could see the front door at the end of the hallway. She was almost there.

Her dash for safety came to a screeching halt when she crashed into the small side table, falling on the overturned piece of furniture and reducing it to splintered pieces of wood.

Dazed from the fall, Sarah shakily got to her feet, brushing wooden fragments off herself as Dr. Parker came out of the den. He repositioned himself, leaving her trapped between him and the wall.

He came at her once again. Sarah did the only thing she could think of and brought her knee up into his groin as hard as she could. Her aim was good and Dr. Parker stumbled backwards, hunched over and groaning in pain as he grabbed his crotch with his free hand.

Despite his obvious discomfort, he came at her yet again. Sarah pushed him back as hard as she could. Only then did she see the open door and remember it led to the basement stairs. It was right behind him.

"Look out!" she cried due to sheer impulse. When you saw someone about to fall, you warned them.

It all seemed to happen in slow-motion. Dr. Parker fell back again and let out a strangled cry as gravity took over and pulled him down the stairs. Desperate, he waved his hands through the air, trying to grab onto something to save himself, but he found nothing. He disappeared as he went crashing down into the basement. The knife hit the floor with a clatter.

Sarah heard a sickening crack, after which everything was silent. It felt like time stopped. There was no sound. Not even the air was moving. Sarah was frozen, her feet not cooperating with her now-available escape plan.

An eerie silence remained as time seemed to move again. Then, a train rumbled by outside, its horn letting out one long note. It was the Silver Line of the Washington Metro. Though the tracks were over a mile away, it sounded as though the train was going right past Sarah, its rumbling and the horn's blare filling her ears.

She looked back and forth between the front door and the door to the basement stairs. It was so easy to get out now. She could yell and scream and alarm the whole neighborhood. If her parents were home by now, they'd get her in the house and barricade the door while calling the police. Mr. Powell, two doors down, would come running with a hunting rifle in his hands and two pistols clipped to his belt, the tip of the iceberg that was his gun collection. Mr. and Mrs. Quigley, who lived next door and used a walker and scooter respectively, would let her in to call for help.

But Sarah didn't know if any of these people were home. And, what if, even now, Dr. Parker was getting to his feet to come after her again? What if he wasn't? Could she just leave him down there, alone and likely hurt?

Then, she remembered the knife. The knife he'd been holding, intending to kill her with. It had fallen with him. She'd heard its clatter. She needed to make sure he couldn't get it again.

Sarah gathered her senses and hurried towards the door and down the stairs. It became even quieter. There was only the squeaking of the steps as she kept going. The dim light, which someone had turned on, cast her shadow behind her. It was as though she had a silent observer accompanying her through the tableau.

Her foot hit something and she froze. Hearing the clatter, she realized she kicked the knife. It had landed on one of the steps and she just sent it down a few more. She kept going, moving even slower as to not repeat her previous action.

She found the knife a few steps further down and picked it up. Taking a deep breath, she knew she needed to keep going. She needed to know what had happened to him.

Dr. Parker was lying motionless at the bottom of the stairs, one hand on his chest, his fingers slightly curled. The sight disarmed Sarah as though he'd leapt up and grabbed the knife out of her hand.

She moved closer, gripping the knife, wanting to convey the message that she didn't intend to hurt him more but she would if he tried anything. She noticed blood trickling onto the concrete floor from the back of his head.

"Dr. Parker?" she asked, not knowing what else to say. What did people say in this situation?

His eyes were still moving and they focused on her, registering fear. Sarah froze, holding the knife out in front of her. She didn't know what she should do ... what she could do. Was it too late?

Dr. Parker remained still. He let out a low, rattling groan and his eyes seemed to lose all sense of awareness. Then, there was a long hiss, the sound of air being let out of a balloon.

"Oh God!" Sarah exclaimed, trying hard not to vomit as she stepped back. "Oh God!"

She scrambled up the stairs, stumbling on almost every step. Seeing her own bloody shoeprints as she went didn't help. Her wails drowned out all other sounds and she lost her grip on the knife, her hands trembling. She didn't even try to go back for it.

Once she reached the top, she broke down sobbing. She knew she needed to get help. Stumbling back into the kitchen, she grabbed the phone, tears streaming down her face as she drew in deep, shuddering breaths. With trembling fingers, she began pushing buttons, misdialing on the first three tries.

"Come on," she pleaded as she again heard the voice telling her the call did not go through. "Come on."

She tried again.

"9-1-1," The operator said, answering her call when she finally got it right. "What is your emergency?"

Sarah was stunned by how calm this person sounded. Four people were dead. How could anyone be calm now?

"Hello? Is anyone there?

Now there was some concern. Sarah realized she had to say something.

"I ... I need the police," she said. "My neighbor just tried to kill me and I pushed him down the stairs. I think he's dead! His family's dead too. Oh God! Oh God! I need help! Please come quick!"

Unable to hold it back any longer, she heaved and vomited all over the kitchen floor. As she gagged and groaned, the operator tried to get her attention again, saying that help was on the way.

"I'm tracing your call," the operator said. "Stay with me. Stay on the line. Help is on the way ..."


Recognized


Unlike many stories wherein even a single murder plays a central role, the killer's identity is not the mystery here...what happened afterwards is.
Thanks to some good advice and suggestions, I have severely modified the prologue. Hope my improvements are for the better.
Pays one point and 2 member cents.


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